Dark Shadows (2012) Directed by Tim Burton. With Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote, Alice Cooper and Christopher Lee.
For a film awarded just 37% on the Rotten Tomatoes website, (at the time of writing) Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows is not the complete disaster you might fear. The film marks yet another collaboration between the stylish director and Johnny Depp, and for the most part, is a sure, knockabout piece of hokum that manages to be a subtle amount of fun, for most of its time.
Based on a gothic soap opera made for American television in the mid-to-late 1960’s, the film openly shares a kinship with the likes of The Munsters and The Addams Family. What’s more, is that thanks to an all-star cast each having a great time, combined with Burton’s flair and love for the material, the film makes for a very easy and unassuming watch.
The plot set-up revolves around Johnny Depp’s 300 year-old vampire, Barnabas, being awoken in 1972, and acquainting himself with his dysfunctional descendants at his old ancestral home. Tonally, like much of Burton’s work, it tries hard to skirt that fine line of being accessible to older kids and entertaining for adults. As always with Burton, there’s a fair share of hits and misses, but given the lively nature of the portrayals and the charmingly gothic surroundings, there is enough good stuff to make it worth your while.
Sparring opposite Johnny Depp is a delightfully wicked Eva Green, who comes close to stealing every scene she’s in. Green toys with Depp’s conflicted Barnabas, sexing things up and clearly enjoying herself in the process. It’s on this level of performance, that the film is a success. As a story, and like much of Burton’s work, the film never gets out of first gear. It has almost become the norm for his work. Films that look resplendent, ultra stylised, showing off the directors unique vision, often with peculiar performances from the likes of Depp or the directors wife, Helena Bonham Carter, but also films that feel somewhat shallow and inaccessible, emotionally, to the point that his works have the look of absolute classics, but seldom few of them actually attain that high status.
So, while I go against the grain on Dark Shadows and say that I enjoyed the film on a surface level, perhaps that is because I have become trained to enjoy Burton’s work this way. Oh, there’s a great 70’s soundtrack too. 3/5